Earth Day: Five ways we affect the planet

2. Air conditioning: 9 in 10 new homes have it

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    Air conditioners line a street in Boston in this file photo. In the 1970s, just under half of new homes came with air conditioning. Today, nearly 9 in 10 do.
    Josh Armstrong/The Christian Science Monitor/File
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On average, Americans spend $2,000 a year on energy bills, over half of which goes towards heating and cooling homes, according to the EPA. How do we do it? Here’s a breakdown of energy sources for 2010:

Natural gas: 57.0 million homes (about half)

Oil: 8 million homes

Wood: About 2.2 million houses– less than 2 percent

Solar: 38,010 homes

But the biggest change since the 1970s is air conditioning. In 1974, four years after the inaugural Earth Day, 48 percent of newly built single-family homes had air conditioning. By 2010, that had climbed to 88 percent, causing a big surge in electricity use. 


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